THE winner of tomorrow’s top-of-the-table clash in Ryman League Division One North will go on to lift the league championship, Needham Market manager Danny Laws has declared.
With five matches left to play, including tomorrow’s encounter at East Thurrock United (3pm), the Marketmen begin the run-in three points behind their hosts.
Victory would take Needham top by virtue of a better goal difference, but defeat would leave East Thurrock needing just a maximum of seven points from their final four matches to be crowned champions.
“It is the shootout at the OK Corral, it’s a winner-takes-all game,” said Laws. “You can talk about any other game this season, but none of them have absolutely no bearing on Saturday’s match.
“Whoever wins on Saturday will win the league – that is pretty much a given.
“The players will not be in any doubt what the situation is. Some will cope mentally and some won’t, for both Needham and East Thurrock.
“There will probably be the biggest crowd in Ryman League Division One North this season because games don’t get any bigger than this one in this division.”
The Marketmen, who were promoted to Ryman League One North as Ridgeons League champions last season, hope to draw on the experience of some huge matches they have played over the last couple of seasons, including when they lost the 2007/8 Ridgeons League title to Soham Town Rangers on the final day of the season.
That day, Craig Parker was absent thorugh injury and Needham lost 4-0, but the 36-goal midfielder enters the fixture having scored in each of his last five games, a streak only bettered by his nine-game goal run at the start of the campaign.
Laws said: “That season we were missing our best player and top scorer, Craig Parker, but that is very different this time around.
“There is one quite significant factor, which is one player who has 36 goals. When I went to Soham three years ago, he was sitting on the sideline on crutches.
“But it’s not all down to Craig. Sam Newson’s goal record is phenomenal, Kris Lee set two goals up on Tuesday and Danny Thrower also came to the party.”
However, East Thurrock also have their own midfield talisman in Kris Newby, a player with 21 league goals to his name this campaign – a figure only bettered in Ryman One North by Parker’s 29 strikes in league competition.
Kevin Horlock (knee) will be absent, but Lowestoft loanee Jamie Godbold (ankle) could be back in the fold if he has responded to treatment sufficiently.
n Needham are running a double decker bus to East Thurrock tomorrow, leaving Bloomfields at 11.30am.
For more information, contact Mel Bloomfield on 07881 660587.